- Publication date
- Pennsylvania State University
- Digitizing sponsor
- Pennsylvania Department of Transportation
To license this film and get a higher quality version for broadcast/film purposes, contact A/V Geeks LLC.
- 2005-03-18 08:47:01
- Run time
Subject: I love this little film.
Subject: Sorry, Splueby Doo!
Subject: okay this is a buzzkill
he hadda whole skull flame thingy going on--very reality based; i just do not haz teh patience for
this kind of weird farfetched after school bus special thingy
i guess it's alright, i will hafta see how cosmico's kitteh rates it
Subject: Really Good
Hope you're all dong fine these days
Subject: ....you kiddin"..?..
Subject: Doug Edmunds
Nice work, Doug.
Subject: Ghost movies are cool
Subject: Comedy version of "Ghost Rider"
Hi everyone! I made a comedy mashup of this film for a laugh on YouTube. Some of the credits got cut off, and now that I see the director and star are actually still following this, I apologize and will add them to the YouTube page. If they happen to see my re-edit of the film, with me co-starring as "Tracey Donnelly", I hope they will get a laugh out of it, which is all that was intended.
I don't know if Archive will let me post a YouTube url, so here are some different ways to watch it:
Got to YouTube and paste in /watch?v=lzk4-orjF30 after the youtube dot com part.
Look for my channel at youtube dot com slash calperniaaddams
Or just watch it at http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=lzk4-orjF30
I love these kinds of films, so I hope you'll see this as a loving homage rather than any kind of disrespect. =)
Check out the free podcast on iTunes, "The Stars Explode."
Subject: An Edu-Tragedy
On the second day of school, Kevin sees Tracy again, thinking that she is badgering him. She is really telling him that she didnÃ¢ÂÂt evacuate her bus on time, which causes her demise. She hands him a pamphlet about bus evacuation, which can save his live and those of Bus #77. He caves into reading the pamphlet, after TracyÃ¢ÂÂs supernatural whereabouts interrupted his workout that night.
He sees Tracy on Bus #77, now packed with kids. He tells her why he needs to read the pamphlet, but before she can continue replying to him, the bus driver becomes unconscious and the bus hangs over a cliff. With the help of Tracy, Kevin helps the pupils out of the bus and saves his bus driver. Bus #77 crashes to the bottom of the canyon, with the band memberÃ¢ÂÂs forgotten clarinet. Although congratulated as a hero, he is heartbroken that TracyÃ¢ÂÂs soul, his companion, was finally put to rest on Bus #77.
This is a harrowing film, with the theme music creating a haunting air. (Perhaps a la Ã¢ÂÂEmmerdale FarmÃ¢ÂÂ for you, Brits?). It is filmed in 1982, which is a reasonable date for a classic. ItÃ¢ÂÂs a real tear-jerker, so get your Kleenex out before you watch.
Subject: Director Commentary
In 1982, I was a producer/director with Penn State Public Broadcasting when we signed a contract with the PA Department of Transportation to make a school bus safety film for middle schoolers. I came up with the story and co-wrote the screenplay, which was originally titled "Cliffhanger." I also produced, directed, and edited the film.
Instructional films like this can be boring, so that's why we added a ghost, a bus crash, and romance. It's the last of these, I think, that makes the movie different. We turned a bus safety movie into a love story.
The school bus was donated to Penn State by a bus dealership in Lebanon, PA. It was used - almost a junker, really - but it ran well enough for our purposes. We filmed on it for weeks and on the last day we crashed it. It was pushed off a cliff by a front-end loader, and it didn't go willingly. It took a lot of nudging to make it drop. I wanted it to explode in flames on impact, but we had to work with Penn State's safety department on this and they wouldn't let us. We had to crash the bus "safely" (!), and this meant draining all the leftover gas from the tank and replacing it with water. We also had to remove the battery so the acid in it wouldn't be a hazard to the crew that salvaged the bus.
The cliff was in an abandoned limestone quarry that, as luck would have it, had become an auto recycling center, i.e. a junkyard. I told the owner, Ron, he could have the bus if we could use his cliff. Because the bus landed on its roof, the transmission and tires weren't damaged. Ron said he could sell them, and I was glad he got something for helping us out.
Right away I got in trouble with Penn State for giving away university property. Penn State has a salvage center for disposing of stuff it no longer needs, and I was chewed out for not using it. But they cooled down when I told them it would cost ten times more to drag the bus from the quarry to the salvage center than they could ever make selling it.
There are tons of actors in and around Penn State and its home, State College, but for the longest time we couldn't find the right person for the role of Kevin. Shooting was only weeks away, and every open audition had been a bust. Then someone suggested we contact Doug Edmunds, who they'd seen in rehearsal for a local production of "On Golden Pond." He read maybe half a script page for us, and we offered him the job. He was great to work with, as was the girl who played Tracy, although she was so embarrassed she wouldn't come to the premiere. Doug was in every scene, and he could make even bad lines work. ("Ghost Rider" has its share of bad lines.) He gave up lots of weekends in return for very little money. Part of his pay was driving lessons in my truck on the university test track where we shot most of the film, even though he was only 15.
The test track was miles from the quarry. The last thing I wanted was a bunch of kids running around a quarry with 40' cliffs, so we shot those scenes separately and joined them in the editing room. The crash happened on a cloudy day and the evacuation on a sunny day, and the shifts back and forth still bother me.
The scene in the kitchen with Kevin and his mom was shot during a real thunderstorm (not by choice) and we had to do lots of takes. The actors kept breaking up because after the line, "She died last year in a school bus accident" there'd invariably be a clap of thunder.
Here's some technical stuff for those who are interested:
We shot the bus going off the cliff with four cameras, and two of them malfunctioned. The main camera - the one that just had to get the crash from beginning to end - had a serious light leak. When I got the film back I saw huge flashes of light coming in from the left and right sides of the frame, and I was ready to jump off a cliff myself. We decided to fix the problem as best we could by projecting the film and shooting it with a lens that was zoomed in past the light flashes. (We did this on an Oxberry animation stand.) This magnified the grain pattern of the film, and so this footage looks a lot grittier than the stuff shot with the other cameras. But there wasn't much else we could do.
Also, the super-slow motion camera had a shutter problem, and the footage shot with it sort of flutters. Ironically, the stuff shot with our best, most expensive cameras turned out worst, and the best footage came from a cheap-o Bolex with a windup motor.
The major problem shooting on busses is that it's too dark inside and too bright outside. Film sees contrast like this very differently from the way your eye would see it, and it doesn't look good. So what we did was cut and tape filters to the outside of every bus window to reduce the amount of sunlight coming in. (For the techies reading this, they were neutral density gels, N.D. 6's with an 85 built in.)
To reduce the contrast even further, we lit the inside of the bus. Movie lights inside + reduced outside light did the trick. But lighting the inside of a moving bus wasn't easy. Where do you plug in? The cinematographer, Ned Faust, came up with a solution. We welded a trailer hitch to the back of the bus (which you can see during the crash. Real busses don't have trailer hitches, but ours did.) Then we attached a U-Haul trailer, inside which we put a gasoline-powered generator. It was noisy, but the noise of the bus engine covered it up. We then ran extension cords from the generator into the bus through open windows in the back. And that's where we plugged in our lights. I think we got the difference down to less than two f/stops, and this meant you could see detail both inside and out.
The special effects in the weight room were very low end. We used compressed air to make the curtains move spookily and to send the pamphlet flying through the air, and we shot both in slow motion. We used stop-motion photography to move the pliers down the bench. And to make the barbell rock back and forth by itself, we attached twine out of sight and pulled it one way and then the other.
The sad music at the end came from a music library. All TV stations have these so producers can find the kind of mood music they need quickly. We couldn't afford a composer.
I agree with most of the criticism on this website. I also cringe at some of the dialogue - and I wrote most of it. And I don't think we were imaginative enough in running the bus off the road. But I'm really happy that some viewers like "Ghost Rider," and that they took the time to say so.
Subject: No storm though..
This was fun, mixing a silly ghost story with a safety film. And the ending was sort of neat too, with the bus going over the cliff (notice I havenÃÂÃÂ¡ÃÂÃÂ¯t said whether the kids are still inside, so I havenÃÂÃÂ¡ÃÂÃÂ¯t spoiled that for you.) I was TOTALLY expecting it to explode in a ball of flame (and I think the filmmakers were too) but the bus doesnÃÂÃÂ¡ÃÂÃÂ¯t do that, instead itÃÂÃÂ¡ÃÂÃÂ¯s crushed into a big heap. Neat!
Subject: Pretty good for a PSA
Subject: Very enjoyable...even inspiring.
I like the supernatural edge a great deal. Also the way the action moments were done with still pictures mainly. I'll emulate that myself in some upcoming films I'm making out of my family's home movies (for our enjoyment only).
Also cool that the "real Kevin" posted here! Nice job on this. I did a little local theater myself around 83 and 84. I miss it.
Subject: Pretty Good, actually
The plot is well thought-out and engaging.
The acting made me chuckle a few times, but didn't detract too much from the film.
I just can't believe that they dumped a school bus into a gorge, though! That was totally sweet!
BTW, does anyone know the song that they play at the end? because it is totally awesome.
Subject: The Real Kevin
I think the coolest thing was watching them push a real school bus into that quarry. That took forever to set up and shoot, I recall. And you only get one freakin' chance! The ending part, where I'm all sad that Tracy is gone for good, is so hilarious. The whole film reminds me of those 70s ABC afterschool specials. In a good way...
Well, I just had to post after being told of this. Having gone on to a rock and roll life for many years following the childhood acting run, it was fun to revisit my Oscar-worthy debut. LOL
Subject: A haunting, poignant, and beautiful... bus safety film!
Kevin is the sad and lonely new kid in town. After enduring his first day of junior high school, Kevin is befriended on the bus ride home by a sweet girl who offers him a sympathetic ear. She drops her pencil and Kevin picks it up, only to find that the girl has vanished. Her name is inscribed on the pencil - Tracy Donnelly.
The next time Kevin sees Tracy on the bus, she gives him a bus safety manual and begs him to read it. The other kids wonder who he's talking to. Then Kevin finds out that Tracy is a ghost! She died in a bus accident, and what's more, she used to live in the same house as Kevin!
The bus safety manual goes unread, so an invisible Tracy haunts Kevin at home while he's working out. Through some nicely done special effects, she moves his weights around and floats the manual over to him. Finally, he agrees to read it.
The next time Kevin sees Tracy on the bus, she explains that she never read the bus safety manual, so she didn't know what do to save herself and others when the time came. Then, suddenly, a pickup truck strikes Kevin's bus, knocking out the driver and sending the bus hurtling off the road and dangling over the edge of a cliff!
Remembering what he'd read, (and with some coaching from Tracy) Kevin gets all the kids safely off the bus. Then he revives the driver and gets him out. The bus plunges off the cliff and crashes. Kevin is a hero, the kids cheer him, but he's forgotten about Tracy!
Refusing to believe that Tracy went down with the bus, Kevin scours the area. Finally, she calls out to him. He sees her, she waves him a sad goodbye, (the look on her face is heartwrenching) and vanishes, fading away before his eyes. Kevin is heartbroken.
Ghost Rider is unforgettable, the kind of film that stays with you for a long time after you watch it. Made in 1982, it was probably one of the last great educational movies to be shot on film, as VCRs were starting to take over the classrooms at the time and edu-films were starting to be shot on video.
This is an ABSOLUTE MUST-SEE on this site, and if you collect Archive films, a must-burn for your VCD or DVD collecion!
- Eric Petersen
Subject: Where's my dead girlfriend!?
Subject: The Dead Talk Back
Kevin just moved with his family from Oregon to Pennsylvania and now he has to ride the bus to get to and from school. On his first day home, when he's the last one on the bus, he meets a mysterious girl with curly hair that no one can see. Turns out this girl is Tracey, who lived in the same house Kevin's family does and died in a bus accident a year ago. Tracey forces Kevin to take a bus safety manual, which looks like it could've been illustrated with MS Word clip art, and to read it. This section is probably the most heavy handed I've seen of the PennDOT films, with some ghost camera tricks and Kevin mentally reading the manual.
Predictably, the final third involves Kevin getting into a bus accident with Tracey helping him along. The accident itself, which involved a Datsun pickup running the bus off the road to the edge of a quarry, is all done in freeze frames. Kevin evacuates the bus and revives the driver just before the bus plummets into the quarry. Kevin is now a hero, but still runs after the ghost of Tracey in the end.
A bit hokey and predictable, but not bad.
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